Panaracer has 16 gravel tires listed on their website. Fourteen of those have the GravelKing moniker, with different tread patterns and different colors. The most recent addition to the category is the GravelKing SS/SS+ tires, and they seem designed just for me.
If I broke down the type of riding I do on the Open U.P.P.E.R., I’d venture a guess that 70% is on pavement, and the remaining 30% on hard pack dirt. So, for me, a tire with knobbies is out of the question. I like a stable and solid connection to the road when I’m descending the canyons of Los Angeles, and knobs on the sidewalls do not provide that. Throw in a splash of water, and the likelihood of kissing the pavement increases tenfold. This is where the new GravelKing SS excels. Instead of knobs, the tire has continuous “aggressive lugs” that are in constant contact with the pavement or dirt. This allows for stable traction in any conditions, and predictable handling on the bike.
The center section of the tread is made up of a smooth diamond pattern that rolls very fast on pavement and dirt. Hitting unthinkable speeds on descents is not an issue, and on pavement, the tires are no noisier than many of the carbon aero rims out there. The tires call for up to 75PSI if installed with tubes, and up to 60PSI if installed tubeless. These numbers may seem low for the diehard roadies of yore, but they are perfect for the wheels of today.
Going tubeless is still a bit of an issue for many roadies, me included. I tend to do most of the work on my bikes, but setting up tubeless tires is something I’ve been unable to do at home. I always try, but in the end I drive to my local shop to have them installed. One day I’ll try and get a proper tubeless pump, and that may help the situation. But, on a lark, I decided to give it a go with the GravelKings. A fresh box of CO2 canisters arrived recently, so what the hell, time to at least try. I prepared everything I’d need, and, I admit, with a bit of a defeatist attitude, I began the process. As you may have guessed, the tires went on without a hitch. Both tires seated with one CO2 canister each on the first try. What a huge surprise. I then installed the Orange Seal, pumped the tires back up, and I was good to go. And, best of all, the tires sealed perfectly right off the bat. No additional sealant was needed; they held air immediately. The Panaracers are really well made, and the bead is flawless.
Lastly, the tires are available in black as well as tan sidewall. Apparently the fashion conscious go for the tan, so I’m on point, as the fashionistas might say.